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#SundayReview Westworld

Frankie Av


Hopefully my review tonight will be as enigmatic as the show I am reviewing as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. No spoilers here!

The often overused term; mind-f**k, is the perfect term for the television show, Westworld. Based on the 1973 movie of the same name starring Yul Brynner, the series is a science fiction thriller which takes place in a high-tech amusement park. The park is populated with human-like androids with which rich people can do whatever they please while living out fantasies in a western back story. Their creator is played by Anthony Hopkins, who comes across as both sinister and disconsolate. There’s what could be a glitch in the system and some of the androids appear to be becoming sentient.

We follow the lives of a few androids and humans, key players in the park as well as newcomers there for some fun. Throughout the show you get the feeling that something is undeniably wrong with humanity. That some would revel in a fantasy of brutalizing, raping and killing others, is deeply disturbing and yet something which happens in reality all too often. You can’t help but feel sorry for the androids, especially those who have gained insight into their lives and the outrageous actions carried out on them by humans. With technology now at the point where some parts of the story are credible, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

The opening credits alone are jaw dropping.

It is raw and gritty, with violence, nudity and sex scenes which make complete sense to the concept, not used as a ploy to get viewers. It is intelligent and well crafted with a story which moves along smoothly and always grabs the attention. It’s rarely boring and always thought provoking. You never quite know all the humans or all the androids. You keep double guessing yourself as to which is which. Then someone who you thought was one turns out to be the other!

Every week there is a blinder of a twist that you just don’t see coming. You spend the week thinking you have it all figured out, then the next episode turns what you thought on its head. There are twists within twists, and every week I end up staring at the screen as the credits roll thinking…wow….mind…blown…..!


It has been a long time since I watched a television program which made me think as much as Westworld does. Nothing is ever quite what it seems. Next week is the series finale and already my mind is blown. What else they can throw at us I don’t know, but it’s sure to be fantastic whatever it is! If you haven’t watched it yet, get watching!

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE




#WhateverWednesday: Hosting a Spot! SALT IN THE WATER Book Release Party

Sam av

Well, this is rather exciting.

I was just invited to a host a slot during S. Cushaway’s book release party. This will be my first time ever doing such a thing. Actually, I’m a little nervous! Putting myself in a spotlight is always a little nerve-wracking, but it’s for a good cause. S. Cushaway is another local author from my hometown, and this is her first book!


There are a thousand ways to die in the desert– desperate outlaws, deadly predators, murderous elements, and betrayal. . .

Kaitar Besh, a veteran scout as legendary for his cynicism as his skills, is ordered to brave the deadly Shy’war-Anquai desert one last time. Escorting Leigh Enderi– a greenhorn Enforcer with a reputation as shady as his own–he soon realizes the ghosts of his past have come to haunt more than his nightmares.

When the mission breaks down in the wake of bitter hatred and mistrust, even Kaitar’s fabled skills may not be enough to bring them home again. Stranded in the red wasteland without contact, food, or water, they uncover a betrayal that could bring all they hold dear crumbling to the dust. . . and tear down the wall of lies surrounding them.

This is an unusual subgenre that I just learned about called ‘weird western.’ It’s kind of like a Western adventure, but it’s also a science fiction/fantasy novel. It’s not a subgenre I’ve dabbled in, so now I’m looking forward to reading it as well!

I will be hosting the 8-9pm slot on Thursday, October 27, 2016. Go check out the event to RSVP!

So I had to research what the heck I’m supposed to do for these things so I don’t make an ass of myself. I have an hour slot. I was almost certain it was going to be like an hour of video or radio where I’d have to be constantly interesting for 60 full minutes. My greatest fear with that is that I’ll ask a question and get total silence because no one actually cares.

As it turns out, it’s way easier than I thought. Basically there will be questions, maybe some games, and maybe I’ll even give away my own book, THE BLOOD OF NERYS. Sadly, I have not yet found a cost-effective way to ship internationally, but maybe there is a way to offer the eBook for free? I’ll have to look into it.

And since the invitation, I’ve begun considering what it might be like to have my own release party. I didn’t want to get too fancy with my first book. The world doesn’t quite know who I am yet, so I figured participation would be incredibly low. After writing all of that fan fiction, I’m fairly certain that it will be easier for me to find new readers if I have more than one novel to offer. People like a little variety. My online popularity took off when I had more than a handful of stories, so I’m not going to get antsy until I’ve been doing this awhile.

So when the next book comes out, who knows? Maybe it will be my finest hour!

You’ll definitely be the first to know!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Check out our #WhateverWednesday category every Wednesday to hear about whatever random topic has taken up all of the real estate in our minds!

#WhateverWednesday Angels and Pharaohs

Frankie Av

I’ve been interested in world mythology for many years. I’ve researched and read about various myths, legends, ancient religion and cultural beliefs. Half of my personal library holds volumes on the subjects. Of everything I’ve read, I’ve always been most interested in Ancient Egypt and Angels. Neither should come as a surprise if you know me well enough. Both subjects have fascinated me from a young age. In fact, back in 1988 my aunt took me to the Gold of the Pharaohs exhibition in Edinburgh. I remember standing in front of Tutankhamen’s death mask, mesmerised. My aunt would take me to see other things in the exhibition but I always ended up back in front of that mask whenever there was a space for me to push my way in front. There was just something…otherworldly, about it. It was magical, steeped in something almost sensual. I understood this, yet I was only 13 years old at the time. It was almost as if the Pharaoh himself was staring at me, trying to tell me something important which I just could not comprehend. I still get shivers from the memory and hope to see the mask again some day. The only other time I felt that kind of yearning to know more, was when I researched angels.

It was while researching various religions and cultures that I became intrigued by angelic entities. There are many Gods and countless more deities and lesser gods in both ancient and current religious and cultural belief systems. Of them all, angels just appeal to me. People with wings who can fly! But then, they are not people. They are God’s weapons. The duality of angels is hard to reconcile but fascinates me. On one hand they are utterly perfect beings, romanticised as being large winged protectors with flowing robes and long hair. On the other, they are also God’s warriors, holy weapons who will slaughter if commanded. Cruel and relentless, they will stop at nothing and will slaughter innocents to carry out that which their Father commands. As I say, I find it fascinating. Do I believe they are real? Do I believe that the Gods of ancient Egypt were real? Well, it depends how you ask me the question.

You see, I believe in the multiverse theory. I believe that there is an Earth on which angels do indeed exist. Another where the Egyptian pharaohs and their Gods reign supreme. There are also worlds on which dragons exist, and ghosts and one in which the loch ness monster belongs to the dominant species. Because I often like to believe that if it can be imagined, it is because the knowledge of one reality slips into another and thus myths and legend are born. Fanciful? Yes. Does it surprise you that I have two books in the pipeline after Emergence; one about angels and one about the multiverse? Probably not. My imagination is big enough to imagine such things and allows me to bring them into existence through words and paint and digital ink.

It is my belief and knowledge framework which allows me to be creative. It allows me to question things, to muse over the deeper meaning of life and the universe. It even allows me to accept that in some reality, the answer to life and everything is in fact, 42.

The reason for this rather existential blog post is because I finally watched the last three episodes of the television show Dominion. A television show about angels, the end of days and a chosen one–of course it intrigued me. With strong characters, enjoyable story-lines, fantastic sets and effects and mostly awesome acting, Dominion was one of my favourite shows. Then it was cancelled after only two seasons. Having watched and fallen in love with many television shows cancelled before their time, I know only too well how awful it is for a show to be ended on a cliffhanger, never to be concluded. I feared this for Dominion and so refused to watch the final episodes. I decided to watch them yesterday and was as disappointed as I knew I would be. It didn’t just end on a cliffhanger, it ended on the mother of all cliffhangers. I just can not get my head around how such a great show with obvious reams of potential for a third season could be cut from the fans and viewers the way it was. I really should have known, I have experienced it before and it tears the geek heart from me.

But, what I have that others might not, is the ability to end the story myself in a way I find pleasing. I’ve done it before. I’ve made animations to finish off an unfinished television story. Written fan fiction just to get some closure on a show I have fallen in love with. Why? Because then my story-ending becomes a piece of the multiverse, therefore somewhere in the universe the characters and their stories continue, on another world where Michael and Gabriel and Alex continue to exist. It is most likely the same world from which the story originated, pieces of which slipped into our own reality to become the idea for a television show. A big huge circle of creation through the multiverse in which angels and demons exist.

Now, did I just write you all a strange short story for Whatever Wednesday? Or did I just tell you the absolute truth? Well, there are two dimensions where both are true. But in which reality do you currently exist? 😉

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE


#SundayReview Star Trek!

Frankie Av

I am a huge science fiction fan. I love Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Farscape and many more. What I like about science fictions shows is how they ask the same questions I ask, sometimes even answer them. I love the fact that–for a short time–these types of shows suspend reality and plunge us, the viewer, into a world we could never be part of.

This year sees the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It is one of the longest running science fiction shows of all time, beat only by Doctor Who, I believe. Star Trek was my first love. I remember watching it as a child on a big old tube television while laying on the floor and munching on sweets. Back then the special effects were not like what we see today. But as a child, it didn’t matter how good the effects were as we became immersed in it anyway.

My favourites are the Original Series (TOS) and The Next Generation (TNG). I do have a like for Voyager, somewhat enjoyed Deep Space Nine, but absolutely hated Enterprise. I recently pulled out my box sets and started a rewatch of The Next Generation. Looking at it now you can see that it is older, but it has aged well. The effects are good but not great, it is cheesy in parts and awkward in others. Yet it remains just as thought provoking, mostly well written and as good to look at as ever. Despite its age the stories are just as relevant today, asking the same questions, dealing with the same human problems. Just like Doctor Who, there is a Star Trek series for everyone and a captain for all. Picard and Kirk are mine, and I have watched these two series so often I almost know each episode scene for scene. For the record, my favourite ST ship is the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)

I have the movie box set with the movies from TOS and TNG. I aslo have the new films on bluray. Rewatching them from the very first to the last, you can see the evolution of special effects through the years. Obviously you can tell which scenes were stop motion or used models in the older films, yet it was so well done–at least, most of the time–that it was believable. Each movie looks better than the last, but each one is just as enjoyable as the rest.

The very first convention I ever went to was a Star trek one in Edinburgh years ago. It differed from the ones I attend these days in that there was no actor presence nor huge queues or crowds. It was more like a mobile museum of Star Trek, with screen props, costumes and uniforms as well as storyboards and original art. I absolutely loved it, being so close to items which I had seen on the television for years. The captain’s chair from the TNG show was there and while no one was allowed to sit in it, I kind of….well, let’s say I got my moment of being captain. 

With news of a brand new series planned for next year, and a new generation of movies being created, Star Trek continues to entertain viewers and wow movie goers. With the special effects available today, the new Star Trek movies are spectacular! A sheer smorgasbord of awesomeness! When I watch them I am pulled back to my childhood and feel like I did back then; astounded, amazed and excited.

It is the kind of Science Fiction show you can watch over and over again and still find it fascinating. The only other shows I watch over and over again are Stargate Atlantis and Farscape, but they are too short when compared to the massive amount of episodes Star Trek has. It has entertained me for years and will continue to for years to come. Is it obvious I love Captain Jean-Luc Picard? XD

If you have never watched an entire series of Star Trek, maybe you just haven’t found your captain. With five to currently choose from, I’m sure there is one for you. Anyway, I’m about to embark on a mission, to rewatch the entire TNG,  to boldly go and view the next episode and reacquaint myself with The Skin of Evil……ENGAGE! XD

F.R. Donaldson lives in scenic Scotland. She is the author of the psychological sci-fi MALEVOLENCE

#SundayReview: Noein – To Your Other Self

Sam av

I know some of you at this point are probably wondering why I’ve been posting so much anime (“Doesn’t she ever READ something?”). Of course I read…but while the Altador Cup is going on—while I’m playing mindless Flash games that devour my soul—I can’t read. So I usually put on some movies or a TV show in the background. In the past, I’ve mostly stuck to the classics I love—Phantom of the Opera, Labyrinth, Willow, etc.—but this year I decided that it was a good time to try out some of the shows on my To-Watch list. Every time I go to ACEN, I leave the convention with a list of at least a dozen new anime or movies I need to check out.

That’s why the influx of anime reviews. I apologize if anime isn’t your thing, but the genre is quite a large influence on me, right up there with classic epic fantasy.

So I’m going to tell you about Noein: To Your Other Self.

I learned about this one at a panel for voice actor Richard Epcar. He told the story of how he and some other voice actors were goofing around one day and did different voice overs for the same clips. It’s sort of what any of us would do when the boss is away, just for fun. It was an amusing story to hear because several of the voice actors were all for the idea, while one in particular wasn’t really feeling it. However, as we watched the clips progress, you could tell that even he was starting to have fun with it (and it was hilarious). Before or after the story and the amusing voice overs, though (I can’t remember which), the panelist told us about what the anime was actually about.

The brief description of Noein is that it’s about dimensional travel and the concept of the Multiverse. The Multiverse theory is that there’s an infinite number of parallel dimensions, fractured and fractured again depending on all of the fate-changing choices that we make throughout our lives. According to this theory, basically there are infinite versions of yourself. Some of you are alive, some are dead. Some are happy, some are miserable, and so on and so forth.

The concept of Noein in regards to this theory is that there’s one girl who solidifies the true dimension. She is known as the Dragon Torc and her name is Haruka. Simply by observing and believing in a choice or dimension, that is the dimension that becomes real at the expense of the other dimensions that would have occurred otherwise.

Fifteen years in the future from the current time and space, there are two major yet unstable dimensions at odds with one another. One is called Shangri-La, and it’s the ‘Ideal’ Dimension, where apparently everyone is happy and everything is wonderful. The other is Lacryma, where apparently everything is miserable and the people are trying desperately to save their world. In both dimensions, there are future versions of all of the main and secondary characters in the current time and space. Lacryma and Shangri-La both have an interest in finding and acquiring the Dragon Torc to be able to go back in time and basically force her to solidify the correct decisions to stabilize their dimension. Shangri-La wants to be the One True Dimension, so to speak. Lacryma wants to save its failing world.

The story of Noein basically focuses on Haruka as she learns about the two dimensions and her abilities. She is assisted in this by her close friend Yu and a mysterious Dragon Knight of the future named Karasu. Karasu went back in time to try to capture Haruka for Lacryma, but when he met her, he balked at his mission and chose to become her protector instead.

Throughout the 24-episode anime, the emotional themes of friendship and family are the backbone of the psychological interest. The plot revolves around loyalty and the theories of quantum physics, as well as the consequences of choices and mistakes.

It’s odd…as I watched this anime, I wasn’t completely on board with it. Usually, science fiction isn’t my thing, and I really dislike learning about physics. Time travel, dimensional travel, and hard sci-fi tend to exhaust me. I think I spend too much time trying to make sense of who is what and where it is, being confused about which timeline we are in and what’s going on. It tends to confuse me into not being able to enjoy it. Instead, as I write this, I’m realizing that I did enjoy it. It’s sticking with me. It was interesting, and it can be fun to think about what we may become in the future based on the on-the-fly decisions we make.

So I liked Noein. If this kind of sci-fi is in your interests, then I definitely recommend it for you. For me, simply because it’s not my usual genre, it doesn’t quite make it to my top ten.

However, because the list of anime I have watched keeps growing, I’m able to recognize the voices of a number of voice actors now. I have a few favorites from Naruto. Much like with live actors, I like to follow them around to their works and support them that way. Noein has Crispin Freeman (Itachi), Yuri Lowenthal (Sasuke), Mona Marshall (Inari), Steve Kramer (Sarutobi Hiruzen), and Richard Epcar (Hanzo, Manda). Crispin Freeman is a particular favorite of mine. To have been able to see another anime with these great names in it is always a treat.

Comments are always appreciated. I’d love to know if you enjoy the same things I enjoy or if you have any suggestions. My to-watch and to-read lists are never long enough.

Thanks for your support!

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print).

Malevolence Trailer!




A short trailer I created on various programs. Even learned a little 3D creation when I made the neurons! Watch, enjoy and share! 😀

The Blood of Nerys is on Amazon!


6x9 cover

After a crusade against technology wipes out every last remnant of science, a horrific blood plague devastates mankind. In the wake of such despair, the desperate survive by capitalizing upon the misfortune of others.

Nerys Raphaen, an optimistic flower artist in a broken city, is an anomaly. But she is cruelly abducted, her blood harvested and inexplicably sold for prices that ruin lives, threatening to break her spirit. Then her enigmatic captor reveals that in her veins flows the key to their survival. He tells her she can save anyone. Given the chance at last to bring hope to an otherwise dark era, she never even considers questioning his method.

But because of Nerys…he does.


#Halloween is here. I #AmWriting AND I #amreading!


Hello all! I’m back up to my regular pace in the writing sphere, which is an awesome thing! Back after last year’s NaNoWriMo, I was so absorbed in trying to understand the publishing process and getting my book published that I became disenchanted with the business in general. I lost my spark for writing, and it’s taken quite a long time to recover. I’m finally writing nearly every day again, and it feels wonderful!

Here’s the cover of Frankie’s book. I’d classify it as a sci-fi thriller with heavy elements of psychology and horror. There’s a link for it on the blog, but you can find it on Amazon and Smashwords. 🙂 Go buy it. Seriously. I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend. It’s a rare book that makes me chew on my fingers and keep turning pages like “OMG, that’s so disturbing!”


And, as promised, here’s a link to my Wiselike:

Sam’s Wiselike Q & A

Ask me anything! Thought about writing, but aren’t sure what you’re doing? Need a second opinion on a writing idea? Want some feedback? Curious about what I’m writing, or have any questions for me about my process? Want to know anything more personal? Ask away!

I don’t believe you need an account to ask a question.

Well, that’s it for me! Hope you enjoyed the Poop Hat. ^_^